Bad: A Memoir of Good & Evil
Couldn't Call It Unexpected
Cyn & Tangents
Lead Paint Double Date Set Diaries
Moving to Mars
New Roman Times
Saint Red
Suspension of Disbelief
What Fools


Making Lead Paint

By Jordan D. White

I was in a diner, conspicuously not eating my hash browns. Our waitress had gotten approximately 573 things wrong with our order so far, and the hash browns being forgotten had been the most recent. It was her first day, she assured us. As it turned out, they were the kind of hash browns with all the onions and peppers in them, which meant I didn't like them anyway. I tried to manipulate the potatoes with my fork, moving them all to one side of the plate, in an attempt to make it look like I'd eaten more than one bite. Across the table from me, Jay Marks gave me his movie pitch.

I had worked extensively with Jay on two films before. Both of them had been successful- in the artistic sense, of course, not commercially. Both of those films, however, were made back when we were in college together. Now Jay lived three hours away from me. The diner in which we sat was approximately equidistant from our two homes and I had been summoned hence expressly for this purpose. Jay had a project he wanted to talk to me about.

Jay Marks pouring himself a drink

Our mutual friend Nic had made allusions to Jay wanting me to be in his next film a week or so earlier.

"He has this idea to make a movie about these two guys who lick the wall of their apartment," Nic had said.

"Well, it's about these two guys," Jay began, and it turns out Nic was 100% right. The film was about two roommates licking the lead off their walls and hallucinating. The roommates were the only two characters in the film, since Jay's last few productions had included a few more people and he wanted to scale it down a bit.

"There's this one guy who is obsessed with this girl," Jay continued, "And this other thinks he runs a paranormal detective agency." I immediately began hoping he would offer me the more 'interesting' and bizarre role rather than the leading man. In retrospect, it's probably foolish of me to have worried as I am roughly the size of a few leading men, though I suppose in a film about hallucinating anything is possible. He did offer me the part I wanted, however and to top it all off, he wanted Deric McNish, who had been my actual roommate all four years of college, to play opposite me.

"Is he available?" Jay asked.

I rushed home and called Deric up first thing upon arrival.

"I just took a meeting with Jay Marks," I told him.

"How's he doing?" Deric asked.

"He wants the two of us to star in his next movie!"

"How much is he paying?"

Deric of course signed on immediately for, I can only assume, the sheer pleasure of working with me and Jay.

Jay mailed me a copy of the script at some point thereafter. It was, of course, up to his usual standard of excellence, hovering magically between funny and thoughtful and odd.

My first day of shooting arrived a few weeks later. Apparently, I was the most important aspect of the movie because somehow I finagled it so that we'd film in my home, requiring Jay, Deric, and Nic (who served as the crew) to all make the multi-hour trek to Binghamton, NY. For this first session it was just Jay, Nic, and I, filming scenes without Deric in them. Johanna, Nic's S.O. who lived in town, was also on hand to help out.

Jay and Johanna.

The first thing we did was figure out my costume. Knowing my character thought himself a paranormal detective, I had refrained from shaving and washing my hair to have a bit of stubble and greasy hair as an option. As it happens, I was coming at it all wrong. Jay had me shower and shave then gave me a pair of suspenders and a monocle he'd bought for the occasion. The fake moustaches he'd procured looked absolutely preposterous on me, but we did make good use of a bow tie I'd stolen from an old catering job and the top hat I wore in my wedding. He also had a leather coat for me to wear. It fit, pretty much. I mean, the arms were fine, and I could move and all. I couldn't have buttoned it, though.

Next I ran lines with Nic and Johanna while Jay went out to buy these two pieces of long plastic piping to make his homemade dolly work. Apparently, they were too big for him to drive them all the way from his home, but cheap enough to just buy another pair. They actually are still sitting in my storage room. I should chuck them.

Jordan and his script.

We soon learned I didn't know my lines quite as well as I had hoped to. Heh heh. The first scene we did involved me reciting a section of Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride," which was... difficult. First of all, it has an odd and frequently changing rhyme scheme. Second, since it's actual literature, it was more important that I actually get the words exact. As Jay and Nic rolled the camera away from me in take after take after take after take after take, we would be frequently going back, Nic telling me "'Will be', not 'shall be.'"

The next scene we did was my first little monologue of the film, introducing my character's delusions. It was far easier, not being in verse and all. We got through that with very little trouble.

" Victor" records his monologue.

The last thing we did that night was the scene where I lick the wall. Now, perhaps it would have been sensible to have washed the wall in preparation, knowing as I did that this scene would occur. I did not. I do, however, take some consolation in the fact that I did not wash it afterwards either and Deric had to lick the exact same spot a few weeks later.

To be perfectly honest, even worse tasting than the wall was the shot where I had to rub my hand vigorously on the wall and then lick it all over. No, it's not because my hand is disgusting- my hands are absolutely scrumptious. I just really got a good amount of wall cooties on there.

When doing the actual wall licking, the taste is dulled by the fact that my nose was scraping up against it. The wall is textured, although you can't really tell on film, and it hurt something fierce.

People keep asking is the wall actually had lead in it. I don't know, actually. I certainly hope not. As my wife is so fond of pointing out- in real life you don't hallucinate, you just die after a while.

We finished up then, having not finished everything we'd intended to because of all the line messing up I'd done early on. We agreed to another day of shooting later on.

The next scheduled shoot was for both Deric and me. Deric drove all the way up to Binghamton from New York City in a snowstorm, ready for a weekend of filming and fun. The next day or so was filled with bizarre scenes of indecision.

Jay, having heard about the storm, had been unsure whether he could make the drive. Some of the filming was to be outdoors, so he wanted to come at a time when he knew we would have some nonsnowing outdoor time. Deric and I spoke to him over the phone every hour or so.

"What does it say online now?" Jay would ask.

"It still says the same thing," I would reply. "Light snow on and off till 12 AM tomorrow... I think they only update it once a day..."

"How does it look outside now?"

"Well... it's snowing a little bit..."

Or sometimes it would stop for a few minutes, and I would say so.

The unpredictable nature of the weather then would invariably prompt Jay to ask me, "What do you think it's going to do?" to which I had, of course, no reply. Why Jay thought I had some additional insight into the weather patterns I do not know.

Each of these conversations ended with Jay saying he would call back in an hour, or a half-hour, or however long, and we'd see what it looked like then. The weather outside varied from snow to no while showed no change except to sometimes inexplicably give us the projections from yesterday instead of today.

In the end, shooting was postponed. Deric and I spent the weekend goofing off, playing, games, watching movies, and, to a lesser extent, running lines. The big question: would we have been able to shoot that weekend? Yes, probably we could have, had we risked it. To be honest, though, I am glad we didn't, for a few reasons. One is that I had fun that weekend, of course, but also, I think I knew my lines and my character better given that much more time to rehearse.

It was that weekend over the phone that Jay revealed to me that most of the takes we did for that shot back on my first day... well, remember the poem I couldn't get right? Yeah, most of the takes were fine, since I screwed up after he already cut to Deric, so he could take the audio from another take. C'est la vie.

The next time we filmed it was just me again, making up for the lost time the last time. I had the lines about a million times better this time. The first thing we did was shoot a sequence in one of the local graveyards here. This was done completely illegally, so we used "ninja filming" tactics, going in fast and quiet, get what we need, then get out. This was complicated by the fact that it was the coldest day in the existence of the planet.

Not exactly a costume made for the cold.

Ok, I may be exaggerating. But it was by far the coldest day of shooting. Jay was doing the camerawork, as usual, Nic was holding the flashlight that was the equivalent of 1,000,000 candles, and I was "acting". Jay told me that I didn't really have to worry about the lines, since the shots would be wide enough that you couldn't see what I was saying. Good thing- out in the extreme cold I couldn't remember more than a few words. It was necessary, though, that I just keep my mouth going, leading to some very odd nonsense improvisations that Jay tells me were quite humorous when he watched the dailies.

Once we got indoors, I got the lines straightened out again and we filmed everything else for the graveyard scene on my back porch. That wrapped up all the stuff by myself, all that was left was the big shoot with both Deric and I.

Before he headed home, Jay also gave me the new pages for the end of the script. Deric and I had given Jay some criticism over the script (at his request, we didn't just blast him for no reason), and he had revised the ending. He had told us he would send us the new pages before the cancelled first shoot with the two of us. He never did. He did, however, put them in envelopes with our addresses and stamps. So there you are. I had mine, now, but of course Deric did not yet.

The envelope was stamped and addressed, but never sent.

When that final weekend of shooting arrived, we discovered that this was an important detail. Deric, knowing that the ending was going to be revised, did not study the lines for the final scene of the play. Arriving to the new scene, he discovered that the bulk of it, to a point, was the same, including his long monologue speaking to the shrew. That final scene, of course, was the first thing Jay wanted to do.

To his credit, Jay had a pretty good attitude about it. He felt that every minute more we spend in the house rehearsing was another three we save outside not knowing lines. So Deric and I ran lines together until he had the thing pretty well down. It took us some time- Jay, Nic, and Johanna watched four episodes of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" BBC program while waiting for us.

We got out, eventually, to the location Jay had chosen for the scene. It was just some random residential road in Binghamton. We were shooting pretty late at night, so we tried not to attract too much attention. One of the problems we came across was that every drunken college group that drove by felt the need to slow down/stop and see what we were doing. The most memorably lame of which was a car that pulled over and rolled down the window in the middle of the shrew monologue. "You guys okay?" the drunkard asked.

"Yeah, we're shooting a movie," we said.

"You sure?" he asked.

We all looked at each other. "Yeah," we said.

Another guy hit the car he was parking in front of. He then moved to a different space and went inside.

As for the shooting itself, we did all the dialogue shots outdoors near the car that night. We'd sit in Jay's parents van running lines, get out, shoot, and then get back in and warm up and run the next shot's lines. We started with Deric's long monologue since it was probably the hardest part. I was in most of the scenes we shot that night, but there were a handful near the end with only Deric in them during which I was only too happy to sit in the van and drift pleasantly close to sleep.

The shouting part.

The last bit we did that night was the shouting part from the climax of the film. Jay did it that way on purpose, of course, so we could leave very soon after shouting, so we would not get in trouble. We got home pretty late that night... I can't recall the exact time, but it must have been at least 4 am before we went home. This was pretty harsh for me, since I had worked from 8-5 that day before the boys showed up.

After sleeping in a bit, we shot more the next day. We started with the driving scenes, filmed in a parking garage on our Alma Mater's campus using bluescreen. We had to do the first setup over when we realized I had been wearing my glasses rather than the monocle. Whoops.

Next we came back to my apartment and filmed. We did a number of the indoor scenes with the two of us, Deric and I. It was at this point that I had to smoke a pipe for the first time. This is interesting because I don't drink, don't smoke (what do I do?), don't do drugs, etc. But I'd smoked cigarettes for Jay on film before, I have no problem with that. Victor, my character, is a pipe kind of guy, so I did it. Everyone on set was pretty excited about this fact.

Jay had bought the pipe and a bag of apple flavored tobacco. I was pleased to learn you don't inhale pipe smoke, though the very first few times I puffed it I had a hard time not inhaling. It took some getting used to. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and at one point, I even got it tasting really good. Jay let me keep the pipe and tobacco, and I've smoked it a few times since then, not much. It's never tasted as good as that one time, but I did learn how to blow smoke rings my very first time smoking it after the movie.

Next, once it was dark, we went back out on location to the same street as the night before to get the non-audio shots. The first thing notable about this is that it actually was snowing when we did this. It was very light though, and Jay didn't seem worried, so we went with it.

A couple of fun facts for this part of the shoot- the car we drive in the film is Nic's. It's a stick shift. Victor is driving the car, but... I cannot drive stick. There is a shot where we pull up the car and stop it and get out. In order to pull this off, we put car in neutral and had Nic and Johanna push it from behind until we were in position.

There are also a few "dolly" shots outside on this street. These were not done using Jay's homemade dolly mentioned earlier, it was done with Jay filming out of the back of his parent's van while Nic drove.

Jay preparing a 'dolly' shot.

When we finally finished the outdoors stuff we went and ate a meal at Friendly's and Nic and Johanna had to go. It was up to Jay, Deric, and I to finish on our own. It was pretty simple and straightforward after that... except one little setback...

Jay had quite a few lights on for the indoor shooting, most of which were a pretty high wattage. I already mentioned that it was winter, so the heaters and the lights joined forces and defeated the evil fuse down in the basement of the building. By this time it was about 11pm or later, so Deric and I had to trek all the way out to "Wegman's" all night supermarket for a fuse. Of course, once we got back with it, we discovered it was the wrong type. That's when I discovered that we still had a spare hidden in the back of our cupboard. Mixed emotions there from everyone, relief that we could start again / anger at having waited or gone out for nothing. Heh heh...

It was around this time that Deric had to lick the wall. I enjoyed this, because it wasn't me. Like watching them eat the nasty stuff on Fear Factor. Also, Deric's nose probably got it way worse than mine.

Deric has Jordan cooties now.

The last scene we shot was the last scene in the movie. We shot it on a bluescreen in my dining room. We actually shot two versions, since we had revised the very last page of the script again but had been unsure which of the last lines was a better actual last line. Finally, we cleaned the place up and the three of us sat down and read through the entire script to make sure we had audio coverage for every line in it, smoked a celebratory apple flavored pipe, and called it a wrap.

Jay smoking the celebratory pipe.

Of course, as few weeks later, Jay emailed me to tell me that we had somehow missed a bit of my voiceover. I recorded it with my PC, made him a CD of it, and sent it along to him with Nic when he came to visit.

That was the end of the making of this film, as far as my contribution goes. Jay edited the film off on his own without any input from us. A few weeks later, he emailed us that it was done and asked when we wanted to get together to watch it. As luck would have it, I was going down to New York City to visit Deric that very weekend (last weekend, as I write this). We set up a meeting time and the next thing you know, we're all at Deric's apartment, Deric, Me, Jay, Nic, and Eric, who is Deric's roommate.

We could not wait to watch it, so we put it in as soon as everyone was there. What can I say? I loved it. Granted, I can't be objective since I am close to it, but... it was terrific. It came out to be 30 minutes long, which is a bit longer than jay had intended, but it's a solid 30 minutes. The thing with the snow came out fine. You can see it snowing a few times, but it looks fine it just is snowing lightly. The music really added a lot, very creepy. There were parts of it where Jay did some digital effects that look great. Man, the movie is great. I don't know what to say.

We then paused and ate the cheesiest greasiest pizza I have ever had. It was good. After hooking the camera to the VCR to tape us our copies of the film, Jay and Nic went outside to smoke Cigarettes. While we sat and watched the film a second time, Deric joked that we record a commentary. When Jay and Nic returned, we discussed it and, while the second copy was made, we did it. We all gathered around Deric's laptop and chatted and bantered our way through the half-hour. Deric will burn a CD of the file and send it to Jay, who will put it to the video and add it to our copies of the film after the film itself. Whether the commentary is any good... I am not sure. I hope so. I didn't listen to it afterwards; I wanted to save it till I got a real copy.

And there you have it. That's my experience with the film that is known as "Lead Paint Double Date". It was a fabulous experience, and one I would gladly do again anytime (You hear that, Jay? Write me more pictures to be in). Overall, I'd say it's a pretty good consolation for a plate of crappy hash browns.

Go to Deric's Version